Tennis: Adams impressive again as Panthers advance to Big East Championships

By Lauren Kirschman

The Pitt women’s tennis team needed to win two out of its last three matches to advance… The Pitt women’s tennis team needed to win two out of its last three matches to advance to the Big East Championship.

With their 7-0 victory over Providence and a 4-3 success at St. John’s, the Panthers completed their goal before losing to Connecticut 5-2 in the third game of the New England road trip.

With the victories, Pitt earned the No. 10-seed in the Championship and will take on No. 7-seed Rutgers today at 9 a.m. in South Bend, Ind.

“Our goal was to win two out of three,” head coach George Dieffenbach said. “I thought if we did that we stood a very good chance of qualifying. We did it, and we’re going into the Big East Championship with momentum.”

Against Providence, the Panthers won every match in doubles and singles play.

Elizabeth Adams and Shannon Benic picked up an 8-1 win in doubles. Both then went on to win their singles matches.

Adams won 6-0, 6-2 against Marisela Aviles-Duron, and Benic defeated Courtney Burek 6-1, 6-0.

Pitt’s next victory came in a close match against St. John’s as Gabi Catanzariti sealed the win for the Panthers in the last singles match of the day. Her 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-4 defeat of Jenny Yonkus broke the 3-3 tie between Pitt and St. John’s.

The victory gave Dieffenbach 300 career wins as the head coach of the Pitt women’s tennis team. He has coached the Panthers for 27 years. Dieffenbach gave most of the credit for his accomplishment to Pitt’s current and former players.

“The players won,” he said. “I didn’t win any of the matches. I played a part, but they were the ones who got the victories for Pitt, and they did a great job. It’s also a credit to the outstanding University of Pittsburgh athletics department.”

Dieffenbach said Catanzariti “really came through in the clutch” for the Panthers but that the whole team came together to secure the critical victory.

The doubles teams of Catanzariti and Sabrina Visram and Adela Aprodu and Karma Parbhu each won their matches 8-6. The doubles point is especially crucial in a close match, Dieffenbach said, and securing the point against St. Johns was “pivotal.”

In the regular season finale against Connecticut, Dieffenbach said the team came out “a little bit flat.”

The Huskies swept the doubles matches to earn the doubles point. In singles, Adams and Visram secured the only victories for Pitt. Adams won 6-2, 7-5 against Kelley LoRusso, wheras Visram defeated Abby McKeon 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

Now the Panthers are focused on the Big East Championship, and Dieffenbach said their goal is always to improve upon what they achieved the year before.

Last year, Pitt finished tied for seventh. This year, Dieffenbach said he wants to take the team “one level higher.”

“We want to try and win our first round match [against Rutgers],” he said. “In the quarterfinals, should we be fortunate enough to make it, we’re going to give it all against the team we play. Wherever we play, we just give it our best.”

Should the Panthers defeat Rutgers, No. 2 seed South Florida awaits the Panthers in the quarterfinals.

However, Dieffenbach said he focuses more on process goals, rather than outcome goals. He said he wants the team to compete hard, have great footwork and be offensive while reducing any errors. If the Panthers do that, Dieffenbach said, the goals will take care of themselves.

Pitt has never defeated Rutgers in the school’s history. Earlier this season, the Scarlet Knights defeated the Panthers 7-0 in New Jersey. Dieffenbach said the Panthers want to earn Pitt’s first victory against Rutgers and “make it a historical match.”

“This is a very good opportunity for us,” he said. “We need to take care of the process goals. We’ll need 100 percent from all the players. Rutgers is a very good team, and this is a great challenge.”

Despite the team not performing its best against Connecticut, which Dieffenbach said he expected after the two previous matches, he said he’s happy with how the team is playing heading into the championship.

“We’re playing our best tennis of the year,” he said. “We’re looking for good things.”